Friday, 13 March 2015

How to survive the first year of uni? Live for the second...

Going to university was one of the hardest ting I've ever done. And I didn't expect it to be.

We've all heard the horror stories of nightmare housemates, fresher's week bankruptcy and, god forbid, dropouts. But that wasn't why it sucked - I had some lovely flatmates (and some odd ones), fresher's week was fine, and I didn't actually drop out. So why?

I was ready to leave school, I was even more ready to leave home, and I thought I was ready to go to university. Most of my friends has been the previous year, and their instagram photos of nights out and stories of new friends made me excited to go too. London was a big change from the countryside village I'd grown up in, but I loved that it was so busy, that there was always something going on, and the 24 hour Tesco was perfect for Sunday night Ben & Jerry's runs.

But then there was the small matter of the actual university. I'd worked really hard at school, and was won over by UCL's elitism and promises of a flexible course and glamorous fieldtrips. It wasn't quite like that when I got there. I found myself dreading the few lectures I did have: uninterested, unmotivated and frustrated by the complete absence of structure. Going from a very well-organised and busy school life, where I was constantly pushed and challenged, and thrived off being a workaholic, I didn't really know what to do with myself when I had very little do - none of which interested me. I thought about dropping out on numerous occasions, but could never really come up with a back-up plan. I just accepted that maybe university wasn't for me, but that I should just recognise that and get on with it. Combined with seemingly never-ending spouts of fresher's flu, unstable living situations and money worries, this didn't make for a very happy first year.

But I got through it, I passed it, and I tried to forget about it over a very long summer - which was refreshing, revitalising and the beginning of starting to be happy again and feeling really settled.

Second year has been nothing like first year. I knew the kind of contact hours I was expecting, but I'd also learnt how to fill all those I had spare. No longer were academic articles completely baffling and tiresome (some definitely still are...), and I knew how to write essays and what was expected of me. I got on with my work, starting to enjoy it, and thankful for my increased choice of modules in the second year. I also joined the UCL Drama Society, UCL PEN and am starting to volunteer with older people in my local community. I've made more friends, I have a lovely house that feels like home, and I'm lucky enough to come home to my wonderful, supportive boyfriend every evening. I no longer feel frustrated and anxious but comfortable and happy. The workload has increased, and it's harder, but I love that - I have something to do and I am progressively specialising in a subject I am, albeit, learning to love.

So I have 2 weeks left of teaching of my second year, and I don't know where the time has gone. This time last year I was counting down the minutes until the end of term, and panicking about the exams I had no idea how to do. Today, I am in a very exclusive relationship with my dissertation proposal and wishing I had more time left to catch up with reading and complete my essays. I am excited for summer, holidays, and a chance to get my teeth into my dissertation. I have a love/hate relationship with regards to my third year. I'm edging even closer towards real life, career decisions and fully-fledged adulthood, and that's a very scary prospect. But for now, I still have another year of learning, growing and experiencing - all within the safe confines of university - left to do.

So fight the first year. If you know that deep down, somewhere, university is probably for you, stick with it. If you hate it, find a back-up plan. If you can't come up with an alternative, a degree is never a bad thing to have.  Take risks if you need to: change courses, move universities, resit years. It'll all work out in the end. And once you've made it past the first year, it gets better. Promise.


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